Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Sober Mothering: Letting Him Go.

I’m coming up on two years sober, it’s like a sing-song in my head, “two-years, two-years.” In the end, who really gives a shit?

My son, for one. He told me the other day: “Mama, it’s good to see that you have so much POWER.”

He said it like that. “so much POWER.”

I was like, “Dude. What do you mean, POWER?”

(We’d been talking about how my mother had died when he was a baby, and how having three kids was driving my sister nuts sometimes, and how I’d made a conscious choice to have only one child. I know you feel lonely sometimes, Dude, being the only kid in this house, I said, but I knew early on I could not have handled more than one. For one thing, I just loved you so much, and I didn’t want anyone else messing that up. We connected strongly, very early on, you and I. For another thing, I knew I was trying to change a lot of things my own mom had done, and I wanted to boost my chances of success. I knew I couldn’t have done what Aunt J did and had three. She’s doing an amazing job and I couldn’t have done that. So I stayed home with you the first year, and I made sure you had friends from when you were like 2. And I’ve driven you everywhere and never complained about driving. I want you to have friends.)

We were sitting on the couch in the living room. He looked into my face, with his deep brown-velvet eyes, and said, “How many people do you know who have been able to overcome their addiction?”

He hardly ever brings up that subject. Addiction.

(A lot, I thought. Then I thought about my parents, some of my cousins, my other family.)

He held my gaze and said, “How many people do you know who have made helping other people with this their work?”

“There are a lot of people who help other people with their addictions,” I said.

“How many people do you know who have DIED from their addiction?” he retorted.

So that’s what it comes down to: I’m here for him. I didn’t die. He knows that, and that’s what matters.

The boy at 5, bearing flowers.

“I remember when I was like 10 or 12, I don’t remember how old,” he said

(ten, it was when you were ten, the year grandpa died and i lost it)

“you stayed in your room like ALL DAY and never came out.”

I pushed a lank lock of hair off his forehead. “I’m sorry about that,” I said.

“But you’re always out of your room now,” he said.

He was just accepted to the creative and performing arts public high school today.

The boy licking the bowl.

He still drapes himself across me in the mornings. He’s as tall as I am, bigger-boned, oily-skinned, with a peach-fuzz-baby-boy-mustache. He burrows his face into my belly. He knows it’s where he came from. Yesterday I went to a meet-and-greet at the (private, expensive) high school he really wants to go to next year, and I studied the girls on the “student panel”—the swotty girl with braces and brass-buttoned jacket who comes from 45 minutes away; the sexy theater-studies girl in white rag-dress and combat boots; the girl kitted out in little black number and platform spike heels. Isn’t there a friggin dress-code at this place? I thought. They all have long hair and black-varnished fingernails and possibly piercings and tattoos and they have CURVES, and when he goes up to high school next year, braces off and looking all hot and angular in his skinny brown cords and tobacco-suede Gravis chukkas, he will belong to them—las chicas. And that’s cool—maybe not cool, it’s fine, I’ll suck it up and be the Cool Mom when it happens. It will happen.

But for now I’m still Mama.


The boy, age 3.


  1. In my family, growing up was like living on the island in “Lord of the Flies.” We nearly killed each other, my brothers and I. So growing up an only child doesn’t sound bad at all, to me. I probably would have gotten at least a little more positive attention. Your son is so lucky to have a sober mom.

  2. What a beautiful story. I love that you were able to recognize what would work for you, that one child was perfect. When I had my kids, there were so many things I could not see due to my addiction. I too, spent a lot of time in my room when my kids were small. I can’t sort out whether it was because of my alcoholism or my depression, perhaps both but it doesn’t really matter now. What matters is that through recovery I have a chance to heal and renew the relationships with my children. It’s taking some time and I cannot see the future, but I still have hope.

  3. Your story really resonates for me. I, too, knew that I could only be a good parent to one child. Fortunately my daughter never minded being an only child. I always figured, “why mess with perfection?” And she, too, was accepted into a performing arts high school, and attended there from 8th grade through graduation. It was the best thing ever for her. And it was pretty fun for me, too! Enjoy the journey!

  4. My boy is heading into this part of his life…I watch the girls check him out, and at this point, he doesn’t pay a lot of attention…for my daughter, who will be hell on wheels, I am cleaning the shot gun, metaphorically speaking.

  5. What a wonderful kid you have–and how wise he is. I know you are proud of him–and I hope that you are proud of yourself!

    I had those moments, fighting depression, where the television was the babysitter and I stayed in my room. But I also remember him as a four year old who came up and tried to get me out of bed and said “don’t cry, Mommy, please don’t cry anymore.” The time I had a knife and started to cut and realized what it would be like for my 5 year old son to find me unresponsive and in a pool of blood–made me get professional help and become the mother he needed. I have told him, as a teen and as a man–that he saved my life in those days. I’m pretty sure I would not have made it without those big, brown, trusting eyes to give me motivation.

    He is a single child–and the few times I asked him if he wanted a sibling, he very adamantly said “no!!!”

    As a parent, the best gifts we can give our kids are the skills and courage to fly. The hardest part may be watching them do it without holding them back.

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